One month into all-electronic tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge, speed and illegal use of the carpool lanes remain problems, California Highway Patrol and span officials said Friday.
Those who zip through the toll plaza faster than the posted 25 mph posted speed limit or pass through the carpool lane with fewer than three people should expect to see flashing lights in their rear-view mirror.
"People need to slow down through there," said Marin CHP officer Andrew Barclay, before the Golden Gate Bridge board met to get an update on the new system. "We are getting speeds in the 60s. The toll lanes are narrow. If you go through at 60 mph, it just takes a little nudge of the wheel to the left or right before you hit
Bridge officials and the CHP also continue to see scofflaws passing through the carpool lane without the required three passengers.
"Nothing has changed, it's always been three people," said Mary Currie, bridge district spokeswoman. "There may be some people who are not paying attention, but there are also drivers who are trying to take advantage of the discounted toll."
Bridge officials have designated Lane No. 2 - the second from the right - for carpools from 5 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays. That lane gives a $3 toll to anyone passing through.
While camera technology is able to read license plates and assess tolls, it cannot count bodies, and some drivers are pocketing up to $3. The
regular toll is $5 for FasTrak and $6 for Pay-by-Plate users.
The CHP is now looking at ways to more closely monitor speed and carpool violaters from areas near the toll plaza, which does not have an abundance of space.
"The CHP in Marin has a lot of resources that we can utilize," Barclay said. "We have cars, we have bicycles on the Golden Gate Bridge and we have motorcycles. Motorcycles can get into areas that might be otherwise difficult to maneuver in."
Despite the issues, bridge officials report overall the switch to all-electronic tolls has gone well.
The number of people using FasTrak during the work week has jumped from 72 percent from a year ago to 83.3 percent today. On weekends it has increased from 59 percent to 74.1 percent and the new system has alleviated the Saturday and Sunday backups commonly seen at the toll plaza, officials said.
"It has gone extraordinarily well and the customers have made the transition," said Denis Mulligan, general manager of the bridge.
Toll-takers had been part of bridge operations since the span opened in 1937, but financial pressures and technology conspired to eliminate the positions.
Eliminating the toll-takers will save roughly $16 million over eight years in salaries and benefits. The move, among other steps, will help bail the district out of a $66 million budget shortfall over the next five years.
Contact Mark Prado via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
©2013 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)
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